Avoiding youth group game FAILS

Game FailLast week I was hiking with my two girls and their friend, Trevor, in the Sierra Mountains. A couple hours into the hike the three kids (all in high school) all started talking about youth group, what was fun about it and what wasn’t.

The subject quickly turned to youth group games.

It was so fun being a fly on the wall listening to this conversation. Here I was hearing teenagers giving their honest perspective about youth ministry programming.

Trevor is charge of games each week for their youth group and my girls were laying into him without any tact:

“The games have been lame lately!”

“Yeah, why do you keep using the same ones over and over?”

Let me quickly mention an aside: I know that some youth workers question the value of games at youth group. We already talked about that subject in detail a few weeks ago. I encourage you to check out that blog, To Game or Not to Game.

In this situation, I was enjoying hearing the student perspective about games. It’s not the first time I’ve heard kids criticizing certain games and calling them “lame.” I couldn’t help myself. I squeezed into the conversation and asked, “So what games have been lame?”

My 13-year-old Ashley (never afraid to be painfully honest) piped in first. “Last week we played a dumb game with balloons. The week before that it was a game for just one guy up front and no one cared!”

I threw the ball back in her court. “So what games do you think are effective?”

Both girls didn’t hold back:

“Games where everyone plays.”

“Fun games.”

“Games where we get to talk with our friends.”

Poor Trevor was quietly taking it all in. I tried to help him out a bit and counter some of the girls’ suggestions.

“You say games where everyone gets to play. What about the kids that don’t want to play? And you say ‘fun’ games. Doesn’t that vary person to person?”

The next 30 minutes was a fun discussion about what games actually were fun, involved people, but didn’t make them feel uncomfortable. I suggested how it’s fun to start with a game involving most everyone, then segue to something up front that entertains the audience. This brought up another subject. Ashley said, “Trevor tried that last week and we couldn’t see!”

Trevor was nice and didn’t throw her off a cliff.

I finally asked Trevor. “Have you seen the game leading tips on our Free Training Tools page on our website?”

Trevor was honest. “Nope. Andy [his youth pastor] told me about it. I guess I should look at it.”

I told him about our fun little training video, The Seven Deadly Sins of Game Leading. This video goes through many of the basics that the girls had been critical about. Hints like, “Make sure the audience can see.” Principles that probably would have helped Trevor avoid onslaughts from brutal girls like my daughters! (They sound so mean, don’t they?)

Trevor is not alone. I regularly meet youth workers across the country who opt to use games weekly, but have never really studied what works and what doesn’t.

Share in the comments:

  • What lessons have you learned leading games?
  • What is your “go to” game that is always a hit?
  • Describe a game “flop” experience!
  • Where do you get your game ideas?

Posted on August 3, 2011

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